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Review: Blindness (2008)

Blindness (2008)

Directed by: Fernando Meirelles | 120 minutes | drama, thriller, romance | Actors: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Don McKellar, Maury Chaykin, Mitchell Nye, Danny Glover, Gael García Bernal, Scott Anderson, Isai Rivera Blas, Jackie Brown, Martha Burns, Joe Cobden, Susan Coyne, Katherine East, Agi Gallus, Amanda Hiebert, Joris Jarsky, Mpho Koaho, Nadia Litz, Linlyn Lue, Michael Mahonen, Francisco Meirelles, Tom Melissis, Jorge Molina, Sandra Oh, Billy Otis, Joe Pingue, Eduardo Semerjian, Mike G. Yohannes

In the painting ‘Parable of the blind’ by Pieter Bruegel, the figures depicted walk hand in hand into a well. The Flemish canvas from 1568 is based on a statement by Jesus of Nazareth, who referred to errant humanity. In his novel ‘The City of the Blind’, the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago goes one step further: he even allows ‘blindness’ to proliferate like a virus, a metaphor of which in ‘Blindness’, the slick and gloomy film adaptation of Saramago’s work, little left.

Fernando Meirelles (‘Cidade de Deus’; ‘The Constant Gardener’) chose the traffic hell of Brazil’s São Paulo as the opening set; today’s urban people are perishing due to selfishness, is the message. Meirelles rams into his morale with the help of accentuated city sounds. Not very subtle, but in terms of form and style ‘Blindness’ is perfectly fine. However, as soon as it is necessary to act, things go wrong: dialogues that take too long, protagonists who do not seem convinced of their text (Ruffalo and Moore as a doctor’s couple), superficially completed and nameless supporting roles. We look at actors who stumble through the image from Breugelian, but then as in a compulsory drama course; only the Brazilian Braga is a positive surprise as ‘woman with the dark glasses’. Moore—the film’s potential anchor because she is the only one with sight—does her best, but gets a little lost. It takes her character too long to seize power in the dilapidated hospital where the blind are locked up.

Resolutely it portrays how human dignity is perishing in the regressive jungle. In the meantime, we have almost become sick of the flooded toilets and rapes that pass us by in the nervously filmed semi-darkness of Meirelles. They are scenes that might make an impression in an Auschwitz film adaptation, but in an imaginary literary world seem rather ludicrous. Suddenly ‘Blindness’ becomes a thriller about power struggles; Gael García Bernal, who apparently still has his eye on the film rights, briefly shines as a corrupt insurgent, but when things get tense, the misery of the clinic, where most of the film takes place, gives way to love again and sacrifice against the backdrop of a haunted metropolis. Impressively filmed, but the imagery of Jesus and Saramago has long since been sacrificed to a virus.

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